(The Pentagon gets something like eighteen times as much money as US
civilian foreign policy operations do, dwarfing the budget of Hillary
Clinton's State Department, but other countries face financial problems
in meeting military obligations for foreign security missions - JB).
Jan 9, 1:40 PM EST NATO chief says financial crisis poses risk
By LARA JAKES
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The global financial crisis could force U.S. allies
to scale back their efforts in Afghanistan, or possibly even pull out,
NATO's top commander said Friday. "We are going to have some hard times
ahead," Supreme Allied Commander Gen. John Craddock told reporters in
Washington. "And it's going to impact, one, the ability of nations to
stay in operations - which is probably the most expensive."
Already, Canada and the Netherlands have signaled they will leave by
2011, Craddock said. That means the U.S. and other allies will have to
cover the costs of securing Afghanistan, which the incoming Obama
administration has called a top priority. The Netherlands said well
before the financial crisis began that it would leave Afghanistan, and
Canada will have already been there for a decade by 2011.
Craddock predicted troops would need to remain in Afghanistan for "at
least" ten years. "Maybe not at current force level, but I think we'll
see a presence there for decades," he said.
An estimated 31,000 U.S. troops currently are in Afghanistan, with
between 20,000 to 30,000 more expected over the next year. Most of the
26 nations that make up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have been
too cash-strapped for some time to meet minimum spending levels each is
expected to contribute for security missions. NATO nations are asked to
spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on security issues that
Craddock said mostly goes toward military efforts. Only six of the 26
nations are meeting that benchmark, he said. "Absent this financial
crisis, still we were challenged," Craddock said. "With this financial
crisis, we're challenged even more greatly. This is going to be difficult."
He added: "It's going to be harder and harder for nations to continue to
support this performance capability that we're asking."
Craddock described an "anxiousness" by European leaders about Obama's
plans but said he has not heard European allies suggest that the
incoming president is moving too quickly or wants too many troops in
Afghanistan. "I think there is some expectation and some anxiousness -
not angst, but anxiousness," Craddock said. "'Where's this going to go?
How fast, how far, and what will be expected of us?' is what I'm hearing
from those nations," he said.
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Received on Fri Jan 9 14:09:59 2009
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